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Feb 12, 2014

Malaysian Blues fan gets VIP treatment

An Everton fan travelled 7,000 miles from Malaysia to end a 30-year wait to watch his team live for the first time -- only for the game to be postponed 35 minutes before kick-off. But Ric Wee's journey from Kuala Lumpur to Merseyside was not wasted, as Everton arranged for him to meet manager Roberto Martinez and defender Leighton Baines. Wee was at Goodison Park to see Martinez's team take on Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday night. The lawyer, who campaigns for civil liberties and has a partnership in a Malaysian legal practice, posted a picture of himself on Twitter ahead of the match, stating how much he was looking forward to it.

But high winds across the North West of England caused havoc during the afternoon and early evening. And the match was called off on safety grounds after the club discovered that damage to buildings surrounding Goodison Park was putting fans at risk. Goodison Road, which runs behind the main stand, had to be closed after tiles were blown off the roof of a pub. After the match was called off, Wee's tweet went viral – and Everton quickly made attempts to track him down. And having chatted to Martinez and Baines, the Everton fan thanked the club for turning his disappointment into a happy evening. He tweeted: "Wish to thank Everton for the great hospitality. Really appreciate it. Also much obliged to the many Evertonians for sending warm messages over. "However, there were many other Evertonians who missed the match, and travelling Palace fans. We all missed the chance to watch a good game. "Today Everton just prove again that it's the People's Club, taking extra effort to connect with fans. I salute the people running the club." There was frustration for Crystal Palace's travelling fans, who faced a 250-mile journey back to south London after the game was postponed. But Everton chief executive Robert Elstone insisted that the club had no other option but to call off the game, a decision that was confirmed around 7.10pm UK time. He told the club's website: "We were monitoring it minute by minute throughout the day. I kept in constant contact with the head of our safety team, David Lewis, regularly. "About 6.45pm, everything was fine and then I was surprised to hear 10 minutes later that a chimney stack had come down leading into Goodison Road. "Tiles were coming off the roof of the Winslow pub and at that point Goodison Road had to be shut for very obvious reasons. "Goodison Road is clearly the busiest road pre-game and at five minutes to kick-off it would have been packed with fans. "We couldn't run the risk, obviously, of anything coming off the roofs on the Winslow or any of the houses and potentially causing a major injury or fatality." A new date for the game has yet to be confirmed, but all tickets brought for Wednesday's postponed match will be valid for the rescheduled fixture. Elstone added: "Apologies go out to the fans because some of them had an horrendous journey getting here. "It says a lot about their dedication and my apologies go out to them but I'm sure all fans will understand the reasons why. We have to put fan safety at the top of every decision we make."

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